From Hydrangeas by Naomi Slade:
“A thoroughly graceful and elegant hydrangea, the flowers of Bluebird take a classic lacecap form; shapely and understated with large, clear sterile florets around the periphery of a woad-blue dome of fertile blooms.
“The larger flowers are sometimes sparse, but their paucity serves only to emphasize their individual exquisiteness. As in a design, the space around something can be crucial, enhancing it and enabling the observer to fully appreciate the focal point. And should the plant be cruelly criticized for lack of impact, the fact that the flowers are scented should more than repair this deficiency.
“The blue colour is reasonably stable with variations in soil pH, too, although it can be more mauve or even pale pink on a very alkaline site. In autumn, the large sterile florets turn to face downwards and are infused with magenta and mulberry, complemented by the foliage, which turns copper-bronze towards the end of the season.
“The shrub is compact enough to suit small gardens and will also do well in containers. Like all serrata cultivars, it is moderately cold-tolerant but does not find exposed or coastal sites conducive, nor is it a fan of full sun.”
The galleries below feature a few close-up photos of Bluebird hydrangeas in my garden. I took these photos early in the spring, just as the first white petals began to appear, then set them aside while working through and posting many of the spring and summer photos (especially the lily photos) that I had taken at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. This and the next blog post — and several others whose photos I’m still working on — returned me from Oakland to my own back yard where I crept daily among the ferns and hostas to photograph my hydrangeas in their progression to summer from spring. Hydrangeas are mostly desiccated now; here in the southeast they tend to bloom early then lose most of their floweriness by late June or early July.
The lacecap hydrangeas have an interesting structure and biology, having developed a natural variation of the typical design of a flower. The central clusters of tiny buds are properly the plant’s fertilizable flowers; they’ll open a handful at a time (as you can see in the third and last trio of photos below) for pollinators such as bees (and occasionally hummingbirds) that flit from cluster to cluster. The white (or light-bright blue or purple) petals that emerge and often surround the clusters have no reproductive function but still they have a job to do: they’re brightly colored to attract the attention of pollinators who are more likely to notice their luminosity than the mix of darker hues among clusters of flowers.
Can’t you just see the little white petals waving at the birds and the bees?